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Discrimination Harassment Policies

Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Harassment Policies

Discrimination and harassment don’t just damage workplace morale and cause you to lose valuable personnel — they can also place your company at risk for ruinous lawsuits. The average court settlement for a discrimination or harassment lawsuit comes to about $125,000; harassment trials have resulted in awards of up to $168 million. If you want to protect both your workers and your business, the logical place to start is with strong, clear anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies

What the Laws Say

It’s relatively easy to figure out what your anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies need to convey by looking at the applicable laws. Workplaces throughout the U.S. are subject to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This law prohibits discrimination based on race, sex, religion, national origin, and color. Title VII also prohibits any kind of harassment based on these same characteristics, considering it a form of discrimination.
Federal law isn’t the only law you may need to consider. Your state may have its own particular laws prohibiting harassment based on marital status, gender identity, or other particulars not covered by title VII. Make sure you understand the laws for the state or states in which you do business.

Creating Your Anti-Discrimination Policies

While you can create separate anti-discrimination and anti-harassment policies, the overlap between these two terms means you can also write a single policy encompassing both behaviors. Start by clearly and unequivocally stating your company’s “zero tolerance” for discrimination and harassment.
Name as many protected characteristics as apply to you on the federal and state level. Since small but significant additions to these laws may occur at any time, and since it’s always possible to omit something by mistake, hedge your bets by adding a blanket statement covering any other protected characteristics currently included under the law.

Education and Enforcement

Don’t assume that your employees automatically understand which actions constitute discrimination or harassment. Spelling out specific examples in your written policies can help everyone understand exactly what’s acceptable and what isn’t. Give detailed instructions on how to report any instance of discrimination or harassment experienced or witnessed by the employee. Explain the disciplinary actions that management may take, up to and including termination, as well as the available options for employees accused of discrimination or harassment. Projections’ online harassment training can serve as an invaluable reinforcement to these efforts.
Last but not least, make sure your workers have agreed to uphold your policies. Include the policies in the employee handbook every new hire receives, and require each employee to sign a statement agreeing to conform to them. You’ll rest a lot easier once you’ve set the groundwork for a discrimination-free, harassment-free workplace!

HR’s Role In Controlling Sexual Harassment

The #MeToo campaign that recently hit social media has brought an important subject into the public’s eye – sexual harassment and sexual assault. This problem is one that stretches far and wide, but it is unknown how prevalent it really is. One issue that is particularly troublesome is that many employees don’t feel comfortable bringing their harassment complaints to the human resources department or any other representative of their employer.

Companies must ensure that they provide solid training for all employees as well as a clear plan for employees who are subjected to harassment of any sort. This strategy must also include a framework that ensures swift action to address the complaint.

Fear of Retaliation

One of the top priorities in these cases is separating the victim from the alleged harasser. Employees must be assured that retaliatory measures won’t be taken if they report sexual harassment, as this fear can keep a victim from speaking up. Anxiety over being fired or having to deal with other problems at work because they lodged a formal complaint can be a true deterrent in creating a positive work environment.

An estimated one in four employees are affected by sexual harassment while they are working, but experts believe that this is a low estimate because of the fear of reporting. Proper training regarding sexual harassment is one way to combat the problem of employees feeling fearful to report these actions.

From the employer’s standpoint, training can go a long way toward protecting the employer. One of the fastest growing complaint areas in which the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission deals with now is complaints of retaliation. The liability that companies face from retaliation complaints is actually much greater than what they face for a complaint of sexual harassment.

Factual complaints are encouraged

Factual complaints are a key point in sexual harassment cases. As much as employers need to encourage victims of sexual harassment to come forward, they must also require that these complaints are based on fact and not fabricated.

One way that employers can encourage factual complaints is to ask that employees clearly document the incidents, reporting them as soon as they happen. Keeping track of the time and date, type of action and any witnesses to the harassment can help with the investigation.

Witnesses must be encouraged to give a factual statement about the events when they are asked about them. Speaking to them privately and ensuring them that adverse actions for factual statements won’t be initiated or tolerated.

The situation gets touchy when there aren’t any witnesses, but employers must still take these complaints seriously. The more information the victim can provide can make the investigation much easier and a bit faster for the employer.

What You Can Do Now

Providing solid training on what constitutes harassment is a vital element of a defensible position for your company. Make sure your sexual harassment training is fully compliant with all current laws and, just as importantly, make it easy for employees to complete that training, repeating it as necessary to ensure compliance. Ideally, your training should be available 24-7 and outline a specific and understandable path for complaints, questions, and other two-way communication on this topic.

To protect your company and your employees, your harassment training should also include other kinds of harassment such as workplace bullying.

Ultimately, sexual harassment complaints are a difficult spot for all employers as well as employees. Through proper training and a solid plan for handling these complaints, employers can help to make their workplace a harassment-free zone.

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